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Trashing Wall Street

- Abstract

To a visitor from, say, Mars, it might come as a surprise to learn that the 1980′s—a decade of stable prices, unprecedentedly low unemployment, and the longest sustained economic expansion in history—were also one of the lowest, greediest, most venal periods in modern American economic history, comparable with the dark era of Reconstruction and the Gilded Age. Yet these are precisely the terms in which the decade is regularly described on the editorial pages of our major newspapers and by the keepers of our conventional wisdom.

The villains of the age just past include the Reagan administration, with its oft-noted fiscal recklessness, and the wizards and cabalists of junk bonds who are accused of having leveraged and pillaged our economy into calamitous hypertrophy. The wickedness is said to be most dramatically encapsulated in one vast, dimly understood misdeed, the savings-and-loan debacle, whose final cost—$300 billion? $500 billion?—is still unknown, but which is far and away the worst financial scandal in U.S. history. Thus, when Michael Milken, the king of junk debt, pleaded guilty this spring to six counts of conspiracy and mail fraud and faced a fine of $600 million and a jail term of up to twenty-eight years, the immediate reaction in many “enlightened” quarters was that he had not been punished nearly enough.

About the Author

George Russell is the executive editor of Fox New Channel.